Patriots-Bills Preview: Buffalo’s lip service to Pats is telling originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Remember that time we argued about “unimpressive” Patriots victories? The last decade has been full of such moments.
Edge the Jets? Having trouble taking down the Dolphins? A week of howling cats followed.
Expectations have fallen. It’s impossible to expect a win against the Bills on Sunday. A performance where you “held out pretty well” also seems far-fetched. The goal now? Do not participate in boat racing. Try to at least keep an eye on the Bills’ bottom team early in the fourth quarter.
Imagine a world in which the Patriots’ halftime deficits in four of their five losses are a combined 79-9 (Raiders 13-3, Saints 21-0, Cowboys 28-3, Dolphins 17-3). In their other loss – the opener against the Eagles – they lost 16-0 in the first quarter.
Altogether that’s 95:9 from the five defeats. Week after week. Against good and not so good teams. The Patriots can’t get out of their own way after kickoff.
Asked Friday if there was anything the team could do to get off to a “faster start,” a sadly defeated Bill Belichick said, “I don’t know how much more we could invest.” We’re very emphatic, we’ve got it watched it every week and gave it a lot of attention. So we’ll see what the results are.
“But yeah, we look at it a lot, we talk about it a lot, we try to put ourselves in the best position possible at the start of the game. And I’m sure every team can do that too.” But of course it has to get better. We are well aware of this and are working to make it better.”
So what, with an injury report 20 names longCan we expect a different Sunday against the Bills? A franchise that is 6-1 in its last seven meetings against the Patriots (the only loss was the Wind Game in 2021, which was avenged with a 47-17 loss in the playoffs a few weeks later)?
Diplomatic words came out of the mouths of Bills players and coaches this week.
“We have great respect for the Patriots and what they have accomplished. They have a long history of success and that’s not easy in this league,” said Bills head coach Sean McDermott. “Our focus and our sole focus has to be on this week’s game.”
“They could have easily won a couple of those games, so for us we understand this is a Bill Belichick-coached team and a Bill Belichick-coached defense,” center Mitch Morse said. “We know we need all hands on deck, we’re going to see multiple looks, we’re going to have to make adjustments in the game and fight because these guys are very well coached and play very well.”
Mitch. They are not. They don’t do that. As we have already explored several timesWell-coached teams don’t start flat, develop a predictable burst of performance in the middle of a few games and then lose their composure at the end. This is what poorly coached teams do. And teams that play well don’t start the season in positions 1 to 5.
The Bills are currently comfortably in the top quarter of teams. The Patriots are in the bottom quarter and probably closer to 32nd than 24th.
Is it any consolation that the Patriots played the second-toughest schedule in football and opponents posted an overall winning percentage of .622? (The 1-5 Giants have played the toughest schedule, with an opponent winning percentage of .629.) Probably not.
It doesn’t matter whether they play against high-quality or mediocre teams. The Patriots can’t block well enough. The poor blocking caused Mac Jones to make panic decisions. And he panics because he doesn’t have enough physical ability to get himself out of trouble and because he doesn’t have enough talent in the right positions to get him out of trouble.
Things could get better this week, but as we’ve seen in the last three games, the Patriots aren’t a gutsy underdog that no one wants to play against. You are a doormat. A “real” date. The perfect team for homecoming.
The Patriots culture is either extremely inactive or recently deceased. Either way, it has disappeared since the end of 2021 – more precisely, right after the “Windspiel” – and opponents who publicly kneel before the team they were are now licking their fingers to get revenge on the team who they have become.
Sunday could be ugly. The fan base’s patience is exhausted. They assumed Belichick would turn the team from failure to gross mediocrity in 2022. Instead, Head-shattering squad decisions coupled with mostly terrible drafts, they left with a worse selection of offensive players. The team also has an injury report as long as a grown man’s arm.
The team’s situation at quarterback is a microcosm of everything. A stationary, mediocre-armed Jones tries to survive behind a porous offensive line without an NFL-level right tackle. There is no slot receiver. There is no third-down back. Their presumed No. 1 receiver, DeVante Parker, would be No. 3 on an average team. Her replacement for Jakobi Meyers – JuJu Smith-Schuster – has been ineffective or injured all year. Jones is a bundle of nerves who relies on sideways throws because they can’t trust him or protect him.
The team cut Brian Hoyer in the offseason, meaning they didn’t have an experienced backup to cover for Jones if he was injured or ineffective (not that Hoyer was a panacea). Last week, They had selected rookie Malik Cunningham to replace Jones on game day. He’s not there because he can throw. He’s there because the line is so bad that he can at least move. He’s also there because they disapproved of Jones’ acting replacement, Bailey Zappe.
When the Patriots signed Jimmy Garoppolo to replace Tom Brady in 2014, Belichick explained his reasons.
“I don’t think in our organization we would put a team together the way Indianapolis did when they lost (Peyton Manning) Manning and they’re 0-16, 1-15 or whatever.
“I don’t think that’s really what we’re looking for. Unfortunately, when we lost Tom (Brady) in 2008, we had a player who could step in and we won 11 games. We want to remain competitive, even if something happens to a player in any position.
“I think depth is always important. You never know when you will need them. But I don’t think we would be happy with 1:15 if we had an injury in one position. But other people have different philosophies.” . I’m just saying that it’s in contrast to this example. I don’t think that’s really what we want to achieve.”
They certainly weren’t trying to mismanage the quarterback position that badly. But they did. Like they’ve mismanaged a lot of things in the last few years.
Just don’t expect the Bills to shed any tears on behalf of the Patriots on Sunday.